In my years as a hobby gamer, I’ve described myself with many labels – “Dice Chucker”, “Dexterity Obsessed”, “Chaos Monger” to name a few. One label I’ve never applied to myself, however, is that of “Solo Gamer”. My thinking was always that if I was going to play alone, I’ll just fire up my Nintendo console of choice, and mash some buttons to scratch that itch.
Since leaving the working world to become a full time parent, however, I’ve begun to have an itch for daytime gaming. At those moments, it’s not enough to plug into a screen – I need a tactile experience that energizes my mind in a way that only a tabletop game can accomplish. So, I have begun dipping my toe into the pool of solo gaming, particularly when my two beans are napping.
Nap time gaming needs are pretty specific – the game needs to have quick setup and teardown times (so that Daddy’s game won’t get wrecked by an early wake up), and generally needs to be played in under an hour (even if it’s a long nap, the dishes still need to be done!). One game that fits that criteria is Deep Space D-6 from Tau Leader Games.
A self-published Kickstarter project, Deep Space D-6 has seen two successful campaigns – the first was funded in 2015, and the second edition came back around in 2017. I received the second edition in late 2018, which is definitely the version to seek out if this game appeals, as it includes some rules cleanup as well as a great expansion. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s dig into the game…
In Deep Space D-6, you captain a ship that is responding to a distress call, only to find yourself trapped in the middle of an extra-terrestrial onslaught! You must survive the oncoming waves of enemy attackers until a rescue fleet arrives to help your crew escape the dire situation.
The box includes four unique ship boards, each of which has a significant impact on how the dice are used, and how the overall game feels. Your alien attackers are represented by a deck of threat cards, a small handful of which represent the final boss encounter. Before starting the game, set aside the boss cards, choose one of your ship boards, and draw two threat cards to set the stage for the forthcoming battle!
Each turn of Deep Space D-6 involves rolling the six crew dice, and assigning them to various stations in your ship. Some dice will boost your attack strength, others will repair the hull or shields, and others will help manipulate dice or save your crew from the infirmary. However, if the silver threat detection is rolled, that die is locked into your ship’s radar track. If that track fills up at any point in your turn, a new threat card is immediately revealed, making your chances of survival drop ever so slightly.
Once all dice are assigned, each crew die can be activated to perform that station’s ability, either to fend off the incoming foes, or to repair your ship and prep for the next wave. Following this step, a new threat card is revealed (in addition to any threat cards that may have arrived through threat detection rolls), which is placed to the right of your ship board at the location matching that card’s strength. Some of the threat cards are internal threats, which live on the left side of the ship board, and represent situations such as an exploding panel, distracted crew members, or even friendly fire! Internal threats have specific dice requirements to be resolved, and if left in play too long, will definitely cause some strategic headaches.
The final step of each turn involves rolling the threat die (a standard six-sided die), which may trigger the revealed threat cards to attack or otherwise complicate your board state. Each threat card shows one or more die faces, and the effects of an activated threat card is usually what spells disaster for your crew. If your ship’s hull level is reduced to zero, the game is lost, along with your crew and vessel.
Once all threat cards have been drawn, the final boss encounter begins, and six more cards are immediately added to the left side of the ship board. If all of these vile invader cards can be overcome, you have survived the onslaught and won the game!
Given my nap time solo gaming criteria noted earlier, this game hits the sweet spot with absolute perfection. I can have Deep Space D-6 ready to play in just a few minutes, and it packs away just as quickly. Each game lasts about 30 minutes, and provides an interesting thematic puzzle to solve, helping to remind me that I’m more than just a referee for tiny munchkins.
The four ship boards change the way the game is played just enough to offer a fresh experience, and each requires a slightly unique approach to succeed. My current favourite of the four is AG-8, which uses some of the dice as drones rather than crew – but if you commit too many dice this way, there is a risk of every die being locked (due to a bad radar roll result), with no way to bring them back!
In addition, The Endless Expansion (included in this second edition Kickstarter package) offers a whole new threat deck (including a new final boss), which multiplies the variety many times over. Using this new threat deck ups the difficulty level, and causes even more headaches as the threat cards more easily combo negative effects to crush your spirit, and chances of winning the game. To balance out this bump in difficulty, the expansion also includes an optional ship upgrade module, giving you more options for each die face, and more crunchy decisions with each roll. Fortunately, the ship upgrade module can also be used with the original threat deck, making for a slightly easier challenge to overcome.
The art style in this game is minimalistic, but effective at injecting just enough theme to help me get lost in the experience. All of the components are of a decent quality, but the custom crew dice certainly takes the cake. They’re pleasing to hold, with icons that are clear and colourful, adding to the gameplay as well as the overall visual experience. All of the components fit comfortably in the box, which has a magnetic snap to keep everything safe and secure.
As the game involves lots (and lots!) of dice chucking, this game may not be for those looking for a pure strategic challenge. Chaos reigns in Deep Space D-6, and bad rolls could easily lose a game you thought you had under control. On the other hand, the expansion adds many options for adjusting the difficulty level up and down, which will help mitigate some of those moments when the dice rebel against your wishes.
However, for this parent in need of a quick dose of gaming goodness, the joy of being able to dive into a quick game in the middle of a long day can not be beat. Deep Space D-6 is one of my favourite Kickstarter games to arrive in recent years, and one that will have a secure place in my game collection for many years to come!
Deep Space D-6 is a solitaire worker/dice placement game that plays in approximately 30 minutes. Designed by Tony Go with art by Tony Go and Tim McBurnie, published by Tau Leader Games.